|Babies are born every day. Each fall a new crop of children starts school or moves up to a higher grade. From toddlers to teens, our children face a variety of challenges and new experiences on a daily basis. All these factors ensure that parents will always be on the lookout for advice, instructions or simply the comforting voice of another parent dealing with similar circumstances.|
While the parenting market can be lucrative, getting your foot in the door might seem daunting. You’ll not only be competing with other professional writers, but also with countless mothers and fathers inspired to give their opinion or tell their own personal story. But if you follow these five steps, making your first sales can be as easy as child’s play:Keep your evergreens fresh. Parenting publications cover evergreen topics such as behavior issues, discipline techniques, and problems involving eating or sleeping. When you tackle a popular subject like this, make sure you’re not just repeating common knowledge or folk wisdom. Your research must be up-to-date, and your story angle timely. For instance, you’ll have a better chance of selling an article about recent findings that millions of children are vitamin D deficient rather than a general article about vitamin requirements for children. A story about helping your child sleep through the night works better if you include details about the newest ambient-sound machines and other state-of-the-art devices. And if you’re writing about fun, inexpensive crafts for kids, be sure to include those that can be made on a computer in addition to the old-fashioned paper-and-glue variety.
Another way to keep evergreen topics fresh is to approach them with a new attitude, or explore an old attitude that might have seemed taboo in the past. Lea Holland, editor in chief of Ruckus, a new parenting magazine aimed at families who don’t fit the traditional mold, is looking for alternative views on old-school topics. “For example, in recent years we’ve relearned the benefits of breast-feeding. But what about mothers who breast-feed their children past age 2 or 3 or 4?” Holland asks. Stephanie Wilkinson, publisher of Brain, Child, echoes the sentiment: “We’ve written about mothers who ‘come out of the closet’ on such issues as spanking (they do it). We’ve written about short-term home schooling, about parental infidelity and what children are told about it, about the varying feelings women have about birth control, abortion, miscarriage, about their quirky children, about stepchildren, and about their in-laws. Things that might not have been socially or politically acceptable to talk about in the past.”
Follow breaking news and trends. In addition to giving fresh takes on old subjects, you need to pay attention to the news and stay on top of any hot topics that affect parents. Some, like same-sex marriage and the increasing number of stay-at-home dads, have been slowly building buzz and are now fully in the spotlight. Other subjects are being addressed for the first time, such as swine-flu prevention and health issues related to MP3 players and video-game systems. Modern technology plays a role in other parenting articles, too, most noticeably those focused on child safety.Parents now have to worry about the dangers of computers and cell phones. “Sexting” and “cyber-bullying” might have been unknown terms a few years ago, but topics like these now receive plenty of coverage. Likewise, child predators who lurk on the Internet now cause just as much concern as that stranger hovering on the edge of the playground. Liz White, publisher of Atlanta Parent, notes, “The world is a scary place. Now we look at terrorism, natural disasters ... these articles didn’t make it onto our pages a few years ago.”
White adds that other topics of national importance, such as the environmental movement and the country’s economic crisis, provide plenty of subject matter for parenting magazines. Try parenting Web sites. The popularity of iPhones, BlackBerries and their kin have forever changed the way many people receive information. With Web sites constantly at our fingertips, it’s now possible to get the calorie content of a kid’s meal while waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant, or read about ways to defuse temper tantrums as your child lies kicking and screaming on a department store floor. Parenting Web sites want short, snappy articles filled with helpful information, and since many sites update their content more often than print magazines, the demand for fresh material can be high. Just keep in mind that the Internet has become a trusted source of both facts and advice for many readers, so make sure any data you use is both accurate and recent.
Branch out. The national parenting magazines pay well and offer great exposure, but they can also be a challenge to break into. Some use little freelance material, and others prefer to work with established writers. Fortunately, though, plenty of other markets are also receptive to parenting material.A good starting point is one of the dozens of regional parenting magazines scattered across the U.S. and Canada, which tend to cover both local and national topics. Women’s-interest magazines and family magazines also devote pages to parenting issues. Publications that focus on travel, faith, ecology, finance or health commonly run articles with a parenting slant, and some even devote a regular section to child-related topics.
Finally, don’t forget about lifestyle and general-interest magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and The Atlantic, which occasionally run parenting articles. Airline magazines—excluding the few that focus mainly on business—are another general-interest market that may be open to your parenting pitches.Utilize your network. Most parents are surrounded by people who are ready to provide both research material and ideas for new articles. Family and friends with children are obvious sources, along with the parents of your child’s classmates. If you need medical information, ask your own pediatrician during your next visit, or call to request a short interview. Your child’s teacher can help with articles about education, and school librarians are invaluable if you’re working on a piece about literacy or a round-up of popular new children’s books. Your nanny or baby sitter can assist with articles about the child-care industry. And since parents generally love to talk about their kids, your local playground can serve as a treasure trove of new information. Spend one sunny afternoon mingling, and you could come away with several months’ worth of great new story ideas.